By Isaac Aregbesola
Nigeria has expressed concern over non-repatriation of its stolen funds running into millions of dollars stashed in foreign banks.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, raised the issue at the high level segment of the 34th Human Rights Council held in Geneva, Switzerland.
A statement issued by Sarah Sanda, media aide to the minister, said: “The non-restitution of the funds back to Nigeria is affecting the socio-economic rights of the people to investible funds which should be used for development.’’
“The non-release of the funds is also affecting the anti-corruption drive of the government which has placed the fight against corruption as one of its priorities,” the statement quoted Onyeama as saying.
The Minister also spoke about Nigeria’s active role in the de-colonisation of the African continent and the enthronement of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.
He said the role led to the recent enthronement of democracy in the Gambia as was earlier the case in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau in addition to championing the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
He thanked donor agencies and humanitarian organisations for their assistance to internally displaced persons and refugees fleeing persecution in the war against Boko Haram in Nigeria and countries in the Lake Chad region
The Minister said that the fighting capacity of Boko Haram had been degraded and defeated with the take-over of Sambisa forest, the strong hold of the terrorists.
He said that the only seemingly challenge was some sporadic isolated acts of terror often using young girls as human bombs.
Onyeama also briefed the council on Nigeria’s prison reform programme and the clean-up of Ogoniland.
He said that the clean-up demonstrated national and global concern over the effects of pollution on the lives of the people of that area and the ecosystem.
He added that the step was a clear demonstration of corporate responsibility and cooperation between transnational corporations and the government.
He said that the measure had ensured the right to clean water for the indigenous population who could not fish or farm due to water and soil pollution.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigeria is currently a member of the council (2015-2017) having served two times previously (2006-2009 and 2009-2012).
Nigeria was elected the third President of the Human Rights Council from June 2008-June 2009.
Nigeria is also seeking re-election into the 47 member council for the 2018 to 2020 term.
The re-election bid is important as it will avail the country the opportunity to continue to defend its interest whenever there is negative interference to contemporary human rights developments in the country.
In January this year, Prof. Itse Sagay, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, warned that Nigeria risked losing another 550 million dollars recovered from the Abacha family to the U.S.
He said this was contrary to the earlier promise made by the U.S. to return money to Nigeria.
Sagay said the amount represented a separate tranche from the earlier 480 million dollars forfeited to the U.S. following a court judgment in August 2014.
He said that the stringent conditions for repatriation given by the countries in which some of the nation’s stolen wealth was stashed contradicted the earlier promises made.
Sagay decried the stringent conditions and other uncooperative attitude of the countries in possession of the stolen funds.
“Out of the Abacha loot for instance, Switzerland seized over 505.5 million dollars between 2004 and 2006.
“The UK recovered 2.7 million dollars from Alamieyeseigha’s account in London in 2005.
“Alamieyeseigha’s home and other real estate as at 2005 was estimated at over 15 million dollars,’’ Sagay said.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had also called for the unconditional return of Nigeria’s looted fund.
Dabiri-Erewa, who noted that asset recovery was different from asset returning, decried the uncooperative attitude of the countries where the stolen funds were stashed.
“America has over 400 million dollars that have been officially recovered as stolen funds from Nigeria.
“But America is keeping the funds; they are telling us about technicalities; they are saying we recovered doesn’t mean we can return.’’
According to her, the person who steals is just as guilty as the person who keeps stolen funds. (NAN)